Science Spotlight

Science Institute News

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Recent accomplishments of CDFW's scientific community


New Threat Facing Lahontan Cutthroat Trout at Independence Lake: Hybridization

Independent Lake with white capped waves from the wind. Lake with green mountains and a snow covered mountain in background
The news out of UC Davis last spring knocked California native fish biologists for a loop. Genetic testing of native Lahontan cutthroat trout from Independence Lake in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee found evidence of hybridization with non-native rainbow trout. To understand the magnitude of that news you have to understand that Independence Lake is the only lake in California – and just one of two lakes in the world – to support a self-sustaining lake population of Lahontan cutthroat trout, a trout native to the eastern Sierra range and the Lahontan basin of Nevada.

CDFW’s Annual Bighorn Sheep Count

About 30 men and women who volunteered to help department conduct sheep survey
On March 1, 2020, about 160 volunteers gathered near the rugged terrain for the annual sheep count. Their goal was to use spotting scopes and binoculars to locate sheep, and determine and record their gender and approximate age.

Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area Pioneering Wild Turkey Banding, Research Effort

A male wild turkey is released from a cardboard box after being banded, weighted and measured recently at the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area.
Scientists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation conduct annual spring trapping and banding of wild turkeys at the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area in order to better understand the characteristics, habitat preferences and the dynamics of the growing population of wild turkeys using the wildlife area and surrounding properties.

Roosevelt Elk Collaring Effort Seeks to Reduce Conflicts Along North Coast

A tranquilized Roosevelt elk is tagged and collared by two CDFW staffers
Despite their massive size and majestic appearance, Roosevelt elk have proved an elusive research subject because of the dense forests they inhabit. CDFW recently initiated one of the largest Roosevelt elk capture and collaring efforts in state history.

New research shows climate change may harm migratory songbirds

Hermit Thrush perched on a tree branch. Long-distance Neotropical migrants like the Hermit Thrush may be more vulnerable to climate change than other types of songbirds.
New research by CDFW Wildlife Ecologist Dr. Brett Furnas shows that Neotropical migrant songbirds are shifting their summer ranges to higher elevations in response to climate change.

DNA testing of tusk, bone, teeth

2 female forensic specialists crouch, looking at tusk
In Southern California, there are two facilities that offer fascinating looks at the types of animals that roamed the land millions of years ago. The Western Science Center in Riverside County is home to 100,000 fossils and artifacts, all unearthed during construction of a nearby reservoir. The La Brea Tar Pits in neighboring Los Angeles County serves a similar purpose, storing a staggering 35 million prehistoric specimens discovered in and around the natural pits that continue to seep asphalt in the area.

San Mateo Lagoon Steelhead Restoration Shows Early Promise

A California Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist holds a healthy juvenile steelhead from Pescadero Creek Lagoon Complex in coastal San Mateo county.
There’s a dichotomy in the way Pescadero Creek Lagoon Complex in coastal San Mateo County has both supported—and been detrimental to—steelhead trout for much of the past 25 years.

Pulse Flows Expected to Boost Brown Trout Fishery in Owens River Gorge

Two people laying on dirt ground looking into small white tray filled with water and unknown items while holding forceps. Also on ground nearby are a small cooler, metal clipboard, orange toolbox, cylindrical bottle with liquid, backpack, and ice tray.
From boom to bust to decades of angler indifference, few California fisheries have experienced such wild swings of fortune as Mono County’s Owens River Gorge.

Endangered Shasta Crayfish Have New Refuge in Rock Creek

Stream surrounded by trees and grass. Two divers head down in water of stream. One man wearing beige clothing and hat stands on streambank. One man in beige clothing sits on rock along streambank with pad of paper and writing utensil. Another person in a blue windbreaker, gray pants, and beige hat kneels next to open ice chest filled with water.
A 20-year, multiagency effort to find a safe haven for California’s only remaining native crayfish culminated recently with the release of 28 Shasta Crayfish (Pacifastacus fortis) into a restored section of Rock Creek in Shasta County.

Saving the Amargosa Vole

Man in dirty brown pants, blue jacket, and headlamp on forehead kneeling with jug of water pouring into small metal dish next to white drawer. Tall grass in foreground and fence immediately behind man.
Wildlife veterinarians recently hit an important milestone in their collective efforts to conserve a tiny endangered mammal native to the Mojave Desert. The population of Amargosa voles (Microtus californicus scirpensis), restricted to one small town in Inyo County, is now perilously small, due to habitat destruction, climate change and water diversions created to benefit humans.